In treating the preceding portions of the chapter, we
have had frequent occasion to note, how one prominent thought or idea leads
to an expansion of the same; how one strain in the Song suggests a prolonged
note. It is again so here. "Waiting for the adoption," formed the
central theme in the former verse. That grace of "Waiting" is to be farther
dwelt upon and developed. It is described by an equivalent word; a word
which, in itself, represents one of the mightiest and most stimulating of
spiritual forces, that word is HOPE.
(V. 24, 25) "For we are saved by hope; but hope that
is seen is not hope; for what a man sees, why does he yet hope for? But if
we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it."
We may venture in this passage to personify HOPE, and
regard it as a beautiful Incarnation. Not an old Sybil (an ancient Greek
prophetess) scattering the leaves, or weaving the web of destiny--but the
Inspirer of all good thoughts--animating, strengthening, energizing.
Looking even to its every-day and material aspect, what
would this world of ours have been, or be, without Hope? Milton sings
A hovering angel girt with golden wings."
Or a later minstrel,
"Through the sunset of Hope.
Like the shapes of a dream,
What Paradise Islands of glory gleam?"
A hundred illustrations will readily occur. The author of
"The Pleasures of Hope" has so far written before us. The mother
bending over the cradle of her infant--her heart palpitating with new
joy--has no eye for anything but a bright and gracious future. Hope admits
of no cloud in her horizon. The same mother, in after years, follows her boy
amid winter storms--"in cradle of the crude imperious surge." But Hope will
allow her to see no stormy bird heralding tempest and disaster--but rather
pictures the wilderness of waters as one vast "Pacific,"--the vessel borne
on by propitious breezes, and "many ports exulting in the gleam of her
Hope--the same guardian-angel, watches by the soldier
at his camp fire; and in his broken dreams throws prismatic rainbows athwart
coming battlefields and stormed stronghold. Hope is the true warder in the
captive's cell, which opens iron doors, and restores to the sweets of
liberty. Hope is the invisible companion that walks side by side with the
Alpine climber, and keeps before his mental vision the lodging looming amid
the blinding storm, whose opened gates he may never be destined to reach.
Hope is the strength and inspiration of the ingenuous youth, as well as the
spectacle of manhood in encountering life's sterner battles. Hope is the
cheerer of old age; which puts bars of amber and gold in the sunset sky.
"Hope whispers over the cradled child
Fast locked in peaceful sleep,
Before its pure soul is sin-beguiled,
Before sorrow bids it weep.
'Tis heard in manhood's risen day,
And nerves the soul to might,
When life shines forth with fullest ray
Forewarning least of night.
It falls upon the aged ear,
Though deaf to human voice,
And when man's evening closes drear,
It bids him still rejoice."
But the HOPE the Apostle here speaks of is not the
apotheosis of the secular poet. But "the Hope of the Gospel,"--"the Hope
full of immortality"--"the Hope laid up for us in heaven." "The Hope of
eternal life, which God that cannot lie promised before the world began."
His train of thought seems to be this (if we may venture
on a paraphrase)--"I have recently spoken of the sufferings of the present
time. These are mysterious--often utterly baffling to sight and
sense--beyond our 'why and wherefore.' But be not discouraged. I have
recently adverted to your rank in the heavenly hierarchy and household, as
sons of God and joint-heirs with Christ. Sufferings, prolonged and severe,
may seem to you strangely inconsistent with these exalted titles and so
magnificent a heritage. But be not discouraged. I have just brought
before your thoughts 'the first fruits of the Spirit.' Have these pledges
failed to assure you? Can you, under these gloomy skies and battering storms
of suffering, see no pledge of the promised golden harvest? Be not
discouraged. No, rather, hope against hope. Seek to submit with calm
acquiescence to the divine will. 'Commit your way unto the Lord; trust also
in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. And He shall bring forth your
righteousness as the light, and your judgment as the noonday.' We may be
unable to see the needs be; 'but if we hope for what we see not,
then (knowing the faithful promise and the Faithful Promiser) do we
with patience wait for it.'"
Hope has well been defined by Tholuck as "Faith in its
prospective attitude." Faith and Hope, in the Spiritual Temple, are twin
pillars; they cannot be dissevered. Hence they are so frequently grouped
together by the inspired writers. "Now faith is the confidence (or
assurance) of things hoped for" (Heb. 11;1). They are spoken of
elsewhere by Paul as the two wings which bear Love to the gate of heaven.
They accompany her no farther; they are no longer needed, where faith is
lost in sight, and hope in fruition (1 Cor. 13;13).
When Columbus was approaching his yet undiscovered
"Treasure Trove"--the mighty continent he was destined in due time to claim
as his own--stray branches, or fragments of branches with berries which here
and there floated on the waves, and the land birds circling round his
vessel, formed the earliest indications of unknown shores. These may be
regarded as appeals to his faith. Hope--the Apostle's
impersonation, had a different evidence to substantiate these expectations.
She, seated as it were at the vessel's prow, could see nothing.
"Hope that is seen is not hope." But she "hoped for that she saw
not," and "with patience waited." She strained her eyes along the blue
troughs of the ocean, for the evidence of things not seen, until, at
last, faintly in the far distance was discerned the streak of shore, studded
with dwarf-palm, and heard the music of the breakers. Faith and Hope could
then sing together in concert their "eureka." "The shipmen deemed
that they drew near to some country" (Acts 27;27).
So with the believer. In his case also, "Hope that is
seen is not hope." The hope of the Christian deals with an unseen Lord and
an invisible future. "He walks by faith, not by sight." That muffled future
is nevertheless a verity. Despite of the haze and the darkness, he knows
that the morning comes. The star of Hope is hovering over the eastern
horizon. He has implicit reliance in the Bible chart, and steers with
confidence through blinding fog and buffeting waves. He claims a heritage in
his Lord's beatitude--"Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet
That same Hope, under a new and familiar symbol, is
described as "an Anchor sure and steadfast--entering into that within the
veil," and imparting "strong consolation to lay hold on the hope set before
us." The anchor (I speak of the earthly emblem) is unseen by the mariner. It
grasps the rock or shingle far down out of view. But he knows how safe he
is. While other ships--unmoored--may be plunging and heaving around him, he
has no thought of danger. His vessel is as secure as if it were sleeping on
its shadow in summer seas. That anchor, in the divinely spiritual sense,
cast into the Rock of Ages will ride out all storms.
Thus then, as the Apostle here expresses it--"We are
saved by hope." "Saved;"--that word must not be misleading. It has been
preferably rendered by "kept," "preserved," "sustained" (Barnes).
"Saved "--Salvation, in the true and only Gospel sense of the term,
we have seen traced to a very different procuring cause, unfolded in the
previous context, specially at the opening of the chapter. Let Peter testify
in his words of simple grandeur--"Neither is there SALVATION in any other;
for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be
saved" (Acts 4;12). No other Oracle but one can give us the response for
which the soul craves. We might go to the Angel of Hope, as the weeping
women did of old to the Angels of the Sepulcher, but like them we would be
left weeping; until, like them too, we meet our risen Lord and get His
benediction--the blissful assurance of a completed salvation, in His atoning
work and sacrifice. In Him we have "everlasting consolation and good hope
Perhaps some who trace these words may be unable to
realize the strength and certainty and consolation of this hope. The anchor,
"sure and steadfast," may not appear to be holding them. Theirs at least may
be fitful alternations of doubt and despondency, with the agonizing quest,
"Where is now my God?" This is exactly what we have previously seen the
Apostle recognizing in the composite dual nature. It is exactly what he
implies in our present verses, when he speaks of the need of "patience" and
the need of "waiting." The people of God have, in every age, been subject to
seasons of hopelessness and depression. We have dolorous strains mingling
amid the strong and victorious accents of the ancient Patriarch of Uz. We
hear the plaintive cry on the lips of the great Elijah as he lay feeble and
panic-stricken in the desert. We hear David wailing out his dirge, now in
the ascent of Olivet, now amid the glens of Gilead, now under the cedar-roof
of his Zion palace. We hear tremulous accents from the lips of the faithful
Baptist within the walls of Machaerus prison, when his lips seemed
mysteriously and prematurely silenced, and hope extinguished. We have heard
Paul himself uttering a piteous miserere--as a "wretched man"--with
the body of sin and death hampering and impeding his spiritual progress. And
thousands since his age, and these, too, not Little Faiths, but Great
Hearts, have had similar experience. The eagle eye of faith gets filmed, and
the drooping wings refuse to soar. "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and
why are you disturbed within me?" There is but one answer--"Hope in God, for
I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance and my God" (Ps.
"And as in sparkling majesty a star
Gilds the bright summit of some gloomy cloud,
Brightening the half-veiled face of heaven afar;
So, when dark thoughts my boding spirit shroud,
Sweet HOPE! celestial influence, round me shed,
Waving your silver pinions over my head."
Reader, should you now be undergoing a doleful
experience--should the music and ripple of spiritual life for the time be
gone--the haze of the skies blurring the splendors of the Great Sun--doubt
and unbelief projecting their evil shadow--it may even be, materialistic
views taking the prismatic colors out of Hope's rainbow; accept as the
surest and best of antidotes, a more habitual, realizing view of Christ as a
personal, all-sufficient Savior--"Christ in you, the hope of glory." The
slabs taken from the Roman catacombs, seen in the Museum of the Vatican,
show unmistakably what kept alive drooping faith in the hearts of the early
Christians--"Hope in Christ-God".
"There, behold how radiantly
Beams the Star of Hope divine,
Yesterday it shone for thee,
And today it still shall shine;
Ask no aid the world can give,
LOOKING UNTO JESUS--live!"
What are the hopes of the world compared with this?
transient, illusory; beacons often changed into balefires; bubbles on life's
ocean sparkling their little moment--then vanishing forever! Even
Wordsworth, who seldom indulges in the minor strain, thus takes up the
parable on worldly hopes--
"Hopes, what are they? beads of morning
Strung on tender blades of grass;
Or a spider's web adorning."
Let it not be so with you. Having access into this grace
wherein we stand, rejoice in hope of the glory of God--making Paul's
motto and watch-word your own--"We look not at the things which are seen;
but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are
temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." May that good and
gracious Spirit who gives pledges and first fruits of the coming heavenly
inheritance renew and quicken you with fresh ardor; enabling you to catch
up, like the Isthmian runners in the night-race, the torch of hope which
other beloved hands have dropped. Be it yours to say in the words of one of
the sweetest singers of the far west--
"Wherever my path
On earth may lead; I'll keep a nesting-bough
For Hope the song-bird, and with cheerful step
Hold on my pilgrimage."
There are many such nesting-boughs if we would only soar
to them and make them our perch. The future, aye, even the future of the
world, is replete with hope. Let others take a pessimistic view of things
coming on the earth, there is much too to brighten and gladden. There is
hope for the future of humanity--the deliverance of a groaning creation. He
has hopes, too, nobler, better, more enduring, far-reaching. There is a
description well-known to all, of Hope "lighting her torch at Nature's
funeral pile," and shedding her beams through the eternal ages. The Valley
of Achor, the valley of the shadow of death, thus becomes "a door of hope."
Through faith in death's great Conqueror, "mortality is swallowed up of
life." Then there is the hope--the delighted confidence, which we were led
to refer to in the previous meditation, of meeting the departed--reunion
with "the beloved long since and lost awhile." Add to this the culmination
of all--the hope of assimilation to the divine image; the hope, amid present
faults and defeats and failures, of complete holiness--the realization of
another Apostle's dearest wish and exhortation--"And let every one that lath
this hope in Him purify himself even as He is pure" (1 John 3;3).
Thus does the Bell of Hope, in varying cadence, ring
Paul's chime--"With patience wait for it." Weeping, in another
similar beautiful personation, is represented by the Psalmist as a tearful
angel-watcher. "Weeping may tarry for the night; but joy comes in the
morning" (Ps. 30;5).
Lord! I shall seek, in calm expectancy, to tarry for that
blessed hope and blessed day-dawn! I shall take down my harp from the
willows and sing the midnight melody, "I wait for God, my soul does wait,
and in His word do I hope" (Ps. 130;5); listening to our Apostle's double
prayer and benediction; "Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God, even our
Father, which has loved us, and has given us everlasting consolation and
good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good
word and work" (2 Thess. 2;16, 17). "Now the God of Hope fill you with all
joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope through the power of
the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 15;13).